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A mining proposal, which lacks environmental oversight, threatens the wild Grape Creek Proposed Wilderness and Backcountry Recreational Area located southwest of Cañon City.

Grape Creek downriver of proposed mining exploration. Photo Wild Connections.

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette recently voiced her opinion on the issue. DeGette explained “In February, my bill, the Colorado Wilderness Act, passed the United States House of Representatives.  The bill includes Grape Creek.  This area is very important in Colorado because of its outstanding beauty, rugged terrain, great fishing, and habitat for bighorn sheep.”

The nonprofit organization, Ecoflight released a video of a recent flyover of Grape Creek with local expert “virtual passengers” practicing safe social distancing measures. These experts explain the values of Grape Creek and the proposed mining threats to local wildlife, recreation, and the economy.

Ecoflight advocates for the protection of remaining wildlands and wildlife habitat using small aircraft in partnership with the local conservation organization, Wild Connections.

Ark Valley Voice Managing Editor JanWondra accompanied a Sept. 2019  ecoflight in Sept. to review these areas endangered by the rollback.  Some 278,000 acres between Salida and Cañon City are proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a rollback of protection from development and mineral exploration.

Wild connections’ Conservation Director, John Sztukowski, said: “this gold mining exploration onto BLM’s [Bureau of Land Management] Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA) should not even be allowed because the company does not have a valid existing right and thus their exploration violates BLM’s non-impairment criteria for Wilderness Study Area management.”

Another concern from the two organizations is that the BLM is choosing not to do an environmental assessment or public input process.

The BLM, which also manages this area of land, identified it as “a corridor of significant naturalness character with unique high desert riparian resources, scenic and visual qualities, flora, and fauna values, including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and peregrine falcon nesting areas”.

Zephyr Minerals – a Canadian company, will begin exploration as planned in July 2020 in the Grape Creek proposed Wilderness Area if the proposal continues. Exploratory mining impacts include drill holes, helicopter landing pads, low flyovers, and laying pipes to pump water out of Grape Creek.

The BLM does not have an official public comment period for this proposed project. For more information go to https://www.blm.gov/office/rocky-mountain-district.

Direct comments or questions to the BLM Royal Gorge Field Manager, Keith Berger at 719-269-8500.

For more information and to watch the eco flight video click here.